In Capital Cranfield Trustees Limited v Beck the High Court decided that an announcement to pension scheme members was not effective to equalise their normal retirement dates (NRDs).
The case turned on the particular wording in the scheme rules (and the announcement). The rules stated that an alternative to the standard NRDs (of age 60 for women and age 65 for men) was "such date as the Employers shall determine in any particular case and notify in writing to the member concerned." The scheme's amendment power provided for changes to the scheme's rules to be made by deed or by "writing effected under hand".
In an attempt to comply with Barber, the company issued an (unsigned) announcement to members in October 1994, setting out how they intended to equalise benefits under the scheme. The trustee brought proceedings to ascertain whether the announcement was effective to equalise NRDs.
The court held that the phrase "in any particular case" in the NRD definition did not cover an announcement to a class of members. It sought to do "something different…it was an alteration of the rules." Essentially, the court concluded that the rule amendments were properly governed by the scheme's amendment power and not by any of the scheme's other provisions.
The case confirms the difficulty of relying on an announcement as a way to implement equalisation policy. Unless the scheme’s amendment power can be said to allow modifications by member announcement, then any announcement purporting to close the Barber window is likely to be ineffective. In these cases, the Barber window will remain open until a valid amendment to the scheme rules has been made (for example, by a later deed of amendment). If a later valid scheme amendment was not made then the Barber window will remain open.